Stryper – Murder by Pride (2009, Big 3 Records)
- Eclipse For The Sun
- 4 Leaf Clover
- Peace Of Mind
- The Plan
- Murder By Pride
- Mercy Over Blame
- I Believe
- Run In You
- Love Is Why
- My Love (I’ll Always Show)
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Robert Sweet – Drums & Vocals
Oz Fox – Guitars & Vocals
Tracy Ferrie – Bass & Vocals
Tom Scholz – Guitar on ‘Peace Of Mind’
Paul McNamara – Piano/Keyboards
Danny Bernini – Percussion
Kenny Aronoff – Drums
Producers: Michael Sweet & Danny Bernini
Executive Producer: Bill Edwards
Total Time = 45:45
I have been a Stryper fan for a long time. Growing up part of the MTV generation, I knew all about Stryper while Hard Rock bands ruled the airwaves and TV channels. I remember first hearing the term “Christian Metal” and seeing the Stryper logo with “Isaiah 53.5” under the name to mark the passage in the Bible where they got the name from. The band had these crazy yellow and black outfits that made their detractors call them bumblebees but the band had one thing going for them…..talent. I bought THE YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK and SOLDIERS UNDER COMMAND in ’85 but the real Stryper testament came with 1986’s TO HELL WITH THE DEVIL. That album had the hits, the videos and the band at their peak. As time went on, I grew out of Stryper as the band faded after 1990.
The band reunited back in 2003 for a tour and live album but the real testimony was when the guys recorded the REBORN (2005), the new Stryper album! What a disappointment! Gone were the signature hooks, guitar solos and melodic ’80s Hard Rock sound…..in it’s place was a modern Hard Rock, Grunge, alt Rock sound. The band had toughened up their sound from their hair metal heyday but it just wasn’t Stryper. When I read that the band was coming back for another album, I was definitely wary. Especially when Michael Sweet joined classic rock legends Boston to help fill the void left by the late Brad Delp. All I could think of was another poor Stryper record…..I was wrong.
Stryper in 2009 is much different than Stryper in 2005. The most obvious thing is that the band has dropped the modern/grungy Rock sound and returned to their roots with the big ’80s sound that got them famous. The album kicks off right away with a solid rocker ‘Eclipse Of The Son’ and I could tell right away that this was going to be a good album. The song is fast with plenty of sing-a-long hooks, big background vocals and plenty of guitar. ‘4 Leaf Clover’ slows down a little bit and adds some serious punch with the heavy riffing of Oz Fox. There’s plenty of hook to ‘4 Leaf Clover’ to keep the listener involved and singing along. In order to make the connection with his latest gig in Boston, Michael Sweet steers the band to a cover of the Boston classic ‘Peace Of Mind’. Normally I won’t accept any cover tune on an album of original material but this version of ‘Peace Of Mind’ is great. Michael Sweet obviously has the high vocal register to handle the Boston tunes and he definitely shines, as does Boston founder Tom Scholz, who plays guest guitar on the track. This is one cover tune that gets a rare pass from me.
Ballad #1 is ‘Alive’ and it’s a beautiful piece of music that rivals the bands biggest hit ‘Honestly’ (from 1986) while ‘The Plan’ dives back into the Hard Rock groove with an opening guitar riff that sounds like .38 Special’s ‘Hold On Loosely’. More pure Hard Rock comes out of the title track, a song that sounds like it came from the harder side of ’80s Stryper. It’s weird to see a Stryper song title with the word “murder” in it but it’s hardly dangerous and/or violent. The song is more about rebellion and standing up for yourself so it’s really inspirational, something the band has always tried to do with their music. The band gets a little more modern edge to their big sound on ‘Mercy Over Blame’ but it doesn’t fall into the trap the songs on REBORN did. ‘Mercy Over Blame’ sounds like classic Stryper, just heavier. Listen for the cool basslines that tracy Ferrie peppers all over this song.
Ballad #2 arrives with ‘I Believe’, a surefire Stryper song title! The song is pretty quiet until the chorus when the guitars and backgrounds really kick in. It’s another successful ballad that could give their signature ballad ‘Honestly’ a run for it’s money. ‘Run in You’ is a mid-tempo, keyboard laced and acoustic guitar drivem track that sounds more like a slower Cheap Trick song.Same thing with ‘Love Is Why’ but the song is a little heavier due to the tempo and the big chorus. The Hard Rock tempo picks up again with the edgy ‘Everything’ and the Heavy Metal tinged guitar throb of ‘My Love (I’ll Always Show)’…..these are two of the best heavy rockers on the album.
I definitely wasn’t sure a Stryper comeback would work, especially after REBORN, but the band has created their best album since 1986. All the songs have excellent songwriting and perfect performances. Michael Sweet sounds just as good as he did back in the day and the rest of the band is tight. The songs are full of hooks that had me singing along almost immeadiately. The one thing I noticed is that Stryper conveyed their message of God to the fans without cramming it down their throat. Instead of writing songs that were complete bible-thumping, Stryper decided to take a more subtle approach and use positive lyrics to express their take on every day life. The songs stand on their own as Christian Metal and regular Rock songs. Definitely a solid comeback for Stryper and MURDER BY PRIDE definitely makes the list as really good album from 2009…..and a surprising one at that.
‘Eclipse Of The Son’, ‘Peace Of Mind’, ‘I Believe’, ‘Alive’ , ‘Run In You’